Re­sist push for nu­clear op­tion

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

Amer­i­cans de­serve and need a fully func­tion­ing Supreme Court, and so we get it that Repub­li­cans are con­sid­er­ing the so- called nu­clear op­tion to con­firm the em­i­nently qual­i­fied Neil Gor­such to the post. How­ever, we strongly dis­agree with the strat­egy to de­ploy the rule change, as the fil­i­buster it would end serves as a crit­i­cally im­por­tant safe­guard that would be dan­ger­ous to lose.

The rule change, which would for­ever elim­i­nate the fil­i­buster from in­ter­fer­ing with the Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion process, would only ex­ac­er­bate the hy­per­par­ti­san cul­ture in­Wash­ing­ton. More­over, such a change would likely usher in a fu­ture in which the Se­nate loses its more de­lib­er­a­tive con­tri­bu­tion to Amer­i­can leg­is­la­tion.

So we are more than dis­tressed with Colorado Sen. Cory Gard­ner’s de­ci­sion to sup­port trash­ing the fil­i­buster in Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion pro­ceed­ings. We urge the se­na­tor to re­think his po­si­tion and work in­stead to stop this ero­sion of checks and bal­ances.

Gard­ner won our sup­port in 2014 be­cause Con­gress was dys­func­tional and needed a fresh leader. Here is his chance to prove he’s not a lock­step GOP min­ion, but a free thinker.

Yes, it would be a great shame if the Democrats block Gor­such, a Colorado na­tive. As we have said more than once, he is a top- shelf can­di­date who would be a wel­come ad­di­tion to the high­est court in the land.

And yes, we don’t blame Democrats for their anger. Se­nate Repub­li­cans earned the op­po­si­tion party’s wrath in de­cid­ing not to even de­bate Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee, the also em­i­nently qual­i­fiedMer­rick Gar­land, fol­low­ing the un­timely death of Supreme Court Justice An­tonin Scalia a year ago. Fight­ing fire with fire is an un­der­stand­able re­sult of the Grand Old Party’s ob­struc­tion.

An­other caveat: Democrats are hardly blame­less when it comes to the ero­sion of states­man­ship. It was Democrats who, in 2013, chose to strip the fil­i­buster from con­fir­ma­tion of ex­ec­u­tive- branch nom­i­nees and lesser ju­di­cial nom­i­nees.

This tit- for- tat es­ca­la­tion that has been mount­ing since the day Obama took of­fice should end with the Gor­such vote, and the party that blinks first will be the win­ner in the eyes of his­tory.

The mod­ern fil­i­buster re­quires a vote of 60 sen­a­tors to break. To bring a vote on Gor­such to the floor, Repub­li­cans would have to get at least eight Democrats to vote with them to al­low the con­fir­ma­tion vote to pro­ceed. Once that thresh­old is crossed, a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, or 51 votes, is all Gor­such would re­quire.

Gard­ner ar­gues that in our na­tion’s his­tory, we’ve never seen a suc­cess­ful fil­i­buster of a Supreme Court nom­i­nee. He fur­ther notes that some jus­tices have been con­firmed with just over 50 votes. Fair enough, but pres­i­dents have known in mak­ing their nom­i­na­tions that the hur­dle ex­ists, and have tai­lored their picks ac­cord­ingly. With­out the threat, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s choice might have been far more par­ti­san.

To his credit, Colorado’s ju­nior se­na­tor tells us he re­mains sup­port­ive of pre­serv­ing the fil­i­buster when it comes to leg­isla­tive de­bates. That’s good to know, but it is dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that the temp­ta­tion to strip the fil­i­buster would end in the af­ter­math of a nu­clear Gor­such con­fir­ma­tion.

We’re in a weird place on this vote. We’ve called for our se­nior se­na­tor, Michael Ben­net, a Demo­crat, to press his party for an upor­down vote. Now we’re ask­ing Gard­ner to avoid the nu­clear op­tion to get to that straight­for­ward so­lu­tion.

Bet­ter to have the seat un­filled un­til sen­a­tors can grow up and do right by the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Trash­ing the fil­i­buster over a sin­gle nom­i­nee would be do­ing a judge of Gor­such’s cal­iber— and the na­tion— a ter­ri­ble dis­ser­vice.

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